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The 12 Films of Christmas #12: The Muppet Christmas Carol


The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

The bare minimum a Christmas television special or film can do to inject some Christmas cheer is to do an adaptation, or parody, of a popular public domain Christmas treasure like Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. In general, these are lazy and trite and form the foundation of the worst holiday dreck imaginable. Just tune into the Hallmark Channel at this time of year to find several variations on familiar stories, all of which bring nothing to the table other than sentimentality. So it is with some trepidation that I include one such work in this 12 Films of Christmas featurette, but hear me out.

The Muppet Christmas Carol starring Michael Caine and those wonderful puppets manages to be a worthwhile endeavor not because it does anything to shake up a familiar story, but because it tells that story with the charm and wit of The Muppets. When it comes to these types of Christmas stories, we likely all have our preferred vehicle of delivery. For me personally, it’s Mickey’s Christmas Carol which is one of my favorite holiday shorts. If I’m going to go feature-length though, I’m likely to turn to The Muppets if I want to hear about old Scrooge.

Caine stars as main character, Ebenezer Scrooge, and his supporting cast is made up of mostly Muppets. Kermit is his foil as the poor, but kind-hearted, Bob Cratchit and Robin stands in for Tiny Tim. That makes Miss Piggy Emily Cratchit, naturally. Stadler and Waldorf play the Marley brothers and are predictably hilarious in their role. Gonzo and Rizzo the rat are used as narrators and exist outside the story, despite occupying a physical presence on screen. They’re the main source of the physical comedy and the film made a star out of Rizzo, a mostly bit part in Muppet films and television specials prior to this. Fozzy, Animal, Beaker, and all of the other familiar gang show-up for spot roles throughout. The Muppets are all playing the role of someone from the original work, but still possess their own personality and character traits. In other words, Fozzy is still Fozzy even if his character is referred to by another name.



Michael Caine is a natural at playing alongside the Muppets.

Caine is relied upon to carry the picture and act convincingly beside his non-human cast mates. For roles that correlate directly to Scrooge, a human actor is cast so it’s not as unbelievable as it could have been. For instance, Isabelle is played by Meredith Braun and Scrooge’s nephew Fred by Steven Mackintosh. Only Caine is really asked to do any heavy lifting and he’s surprisingly emotive and effective as a Scrooge. There may have been some expectations that a Muppet version of A Christmas Carol would just be a straight comedy, but the film doesn’t shy away from the dramatic moments. In fact, it probably does so to its detriment as the film sometimes spreads the laughs out too far apart. Some plodding occurs during Scrooge’s journey that likely will turn off younger viewers, and even some older ones. The redemptive portion of the film also feels rushed and the audience is denied in savoring Scrooge’s turn at the end. Perhaps this was done to keep the film under a 90 minute runtime, but if that was the goal, then other parts of the film should have been trimmed instead to allow more time for the fun at the end.


Rizzo and Gonzo are the true show-stealers in this picture as the duo is easily responsible for the most laughs.

From a production standpoint, the film is a true star as the sets, puppets, and costumes all look fantastic. It’s obviously no surprise that a Muppets work would come out looking so well. The production department did a great job in giving the film a true big screen feel when compared with the various TV properties of the Muppets and their made for TV films. The film is in part a musical, like most Muppet productions, and the songs are actually on the light side. I personally consider that a positive, but others may not feel the same way.

In the end, The Muppet Christmas Carol succeeds because it brings its own heart and spunk to a dated work. Other films, like Disney’s A Christmas Carol, just try to retell the same story and possess no charm, and ultimately have no real reason to exist. At least with The Muppets you’re getting that Muppet brand of humor to add a dash of color to A Christmas Carol, ultimately making it worth your time each holiday season.

Devin Townsend – Z2


It feels like it has been a long while since I’ve made a “Music” entry here. That’s probably due to music not having an inherently nostalgic feel for me, especially when compared with television, movies, and video games. Truthfully, nothing about this particular post is really nostalgic for me, but it is one I feel compelled to make.

Devin Townsend is back once again, and this time he brought Ziltoid along.

Devin Townsend is back once again, and this time he brought Ziltoid along.

Devin Townsend has been at this whole music thing for quite a long time now. Whether you associate him more with Strapping Young Lad, Steve Vai, or as a solo artist it’s possible you’ve been listening to him for twenty plus years. He’s released a lot of material under various guises and umbrellas and he is one of the rare artists I feel has produced something for everyone. He’s best known for his extreme brand of heavy metal but he’s also done rock, country, punk and pop while taking time out for more obscure designs that may not appeal to anyone (I’m talking about DevLab here)! One of Mr. Townsend’s most noteworthy and recognizable creations is Ziltoid, The Omniscient. The fourth-dimensional intergalactic guitar hero first debuted on 2007’s Devin Townsend Presents: Ziltoid The Omniscient, heavy metal meets old-time radio show mash-up that took listeners on a journey through space as Ziltoid sought to find the universe’s ultimate cup of coffee. The album is basically a cult classic at this point, and if you are unfamiliar with it one I highly recommend. After Ziltoid, Townsend formed the Devin Townsend Project and set his mind on releasing records under that moniker. Ziltoid has been a part of the live show and even made an appearance on the DTP album Deconstructed, but a sequel to the Ziltoid record was only speculated upon. It seemed obvious that Townsend would revisit the material and he would acknowledge as much in various interviews with the media while promoting one of his other albums. Fans wanted a Ziltoid 2, but at the same time, Townsend’s other works were being received quite well so while there was demand, fans were uncharacteristically patient when the Ziltoid 2 conversation would come up. This past summer, Townsend took to the internet and crowd-funding to create a passion project he dubbed Casualties of Cool, a hybrid rock-country record. As part of his promise to those who pledged, any dollars raised, but not spent, on Casualties would be directed towards the Z2 record. Proving once again that he is the hardest working man in music, Townsend not only found the time to produce the Casualties double-record, but also what has become a double-album itself, Z2, and release everything in the span of a few months.

For Z2, Townsend wanted to play up the radio show angle even more and his story about an alien kidnapping a being called a Poozer and igniting an intergalactic war over it was a hard sell to his label. Devin has his own label, but he apparently still has people he needs to answer to, so in order to get everyone on board with the Z2 project he agreed to make it a double-album. In what is probably a rare event, Z2 arrived in stores with two discs that were actually two separate albums. On one disc is Devin Townsend Presents: Dark Matters, which is the Ziltoid disc. The other disc is Sky Blue, the latest album from the Devin Townsend Project. Even though both discs contain essentially the same band, they’re intended to represent two distinct artists, if you will, much as the Devin Townsend Band is considered different from the Devin Townsend Project. If all of that is confusing to you then that is okay, as it’s really not important. The important take-away here is that Devin Townsend released two albums at the same time for little more than the price of one, and to top it all off, they’re both pretty good.

Devin Townsend Project - Sky Blue

Devin Townsend Project – Sky Blue

Sky Blue is essentially the bonus disc here, but it also seems like it’s intended to be disc one, so let’s start there. Sky Blue sounds very much like a continuation of the last Devin Townsend Project album, Epicloud, and contains the same supporting cast including vocalist (and now frequent Devin collaborator) Anneke van Giersbergen, best known as the former front-woman for The Gathering. Sky Blue is essentially a pop-metal album. There’s a strong electronic component to the songs and Anneke’s vocals dominate the majority of the record as opposed to Townsend’s. There are plenty of Townsend’s trademark hooks and his “wall of sound” approach to the production. Guitar tones are unusually bright in tone compared with other DTP records with few “crunchy” riffs present. Townsend still employs his old screaming voice in some parts, notably the opener “Rejoice” and “Silent Militia.” The album comes across as being very danceable and some songs wouldn’t seem out of place in a discotheque. The chorus for each song is usually quite catchy, but the album does slow down at parts and becomes more introspective and contemplative. “Before We Die” is the big set piece of the album and it’s positive outlook on life and love makes it a fair representation of the album as a whole. Other highlights include the very catchy title track, which according to the liner notes, is inspired by the Usher track “DJ Got Us Fallin’ in Love.” Raise your hand if you never thought you’d see Devin Townsend giving his interpretation of an Usher track.

Sky Blue is an album that could have been released by itself and appreciated by the Devin Townsend fanbase, but I suspect most of the people who scoop this release up are most interested in the second disc: Dark Matters. The first Ziltoid record was pretty unique when it came out, but it was also basically just a Devin Townsend album with some entertaining bits of dialogue inserted in between some of the tracks. Dark Matters, on the other hand, plays more like a radio show with the music appearing just to enhance the setting and presentation of the unconventional story. It doesn’t really work as a metal album in that sense, but that also doesn’t mean it isn’t any good or lacking of quality material. There are a few tracks that stand-out as entertaining songs, such as the Soilwork inspired “Ziltoid Goes Home” or the punishing “Deathray.” However, those looking for the same experience as was found on the first Ziltoid record may be let down.

Ziltoid returns in Dark Matters!

Ziltoid returns in Dark Matters!

Ziltoid The Omniscient was an extreme metal album. There were some lighter moments to be found, but there was also “By Your Command” and “Planet Smasher.” The previously mentioned “Ziltoid Goes Home” is probably the heaviest moment of Dark Matters, but it doesn’t really approach the heaviness of the first record. The glossy production and electronic elements found on Sky Blue are present here, making the two discs more similar than anticipated, and also making Dark Matters feel more contemporary. The first Ziltoid sounded similar in approach to the material Devin Townsend was releasing at the time, so naturally Dark Matters sounds similar to the more recent Devin Townsend Project albums of today.

How does Dark Matters work as a radio show? Pretty well, though if you’re expecting high art out of the story you won’t find it. It’s basically on the same level as the first album in terms of ridiculousness. Townsend pretty much made that album by himself, but here has the whole DTP band and some guests for other roles. The two most noteworthy additions include WWE personality (and fellow Canadian) Chris Jericho as Captain Spectacular (who was voiced by Townsend on the first Ziltoid album) and Stolen Babies member Dominique Lenore Persi as the war princess. Jericho’s role is basically just a speaking one and he is appropriately cheesy in his presentation of Captain Spectacular while Persi is asked to sing on her character’s main track, “War Princess.” The story as presented is entertaining, though not hilariously so, and some of the charm has definitely faded a bit. It doesn’t really have a lot to do with the events of the first record (which were implied to be the delusions of an overworked barista) but all of the characters that make a return for this record behave in a manner consistent with how they were presented on the first record.

Dark Matters is an entertaining ride, though it’s function as more of a theatrical release make its lasting appeal questionable when compared with the first record. And in a somewhat surprising twist, it’s actually the package’s other disc, Sky Blue, that shines brightest. The two work surprisingly well as a package release, and as a fan of Townsend’s work, I must say it’s pretty awesome to receive a third album from him this calendar year. Dark Matters concludes with a “To Be Continued” message so it appears we’re set for more Ziltoid in the future, which is fine by me. Hopefully, the Devin Townsend Project, which was originally supposed to just be four albums but has now become six, continues long into the future as well.


Top Tracks

  • Universal Flame
  • Sky Blue
  • Before We Die
  • War Princess
  • Deathray
  • Ziltoid Goes Home

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